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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Becoming Better At Giving And Receiving Feedback

Giving or receiving feedback can be a powerful influence on learning and achievement, especially for employee development.

I think one of the reasons former athletes are typically a little easier to coach as employees is because they are accustomed to receiving constant feedback on what they need to improve and where they are coming up short. Many employees are not used to having consistent feedback. Some very much desire it and some would prefer to avoid it altogether. How we intend and administer, receive and process feedback depends largely on how we feel about ourselves. If we have a high intrinsic strength and belief about ourselves, we can give the feedback with good intention and guide it for better impact. If we have a lower intrinsic strength and belief about ourselves, we could fall into a trap of knocking someone down to make ourselves look stronger or better.

Self-awareness and self-management become essential for leaders to operate in a high performance mode, especially in the area of providing feedback to others. A high degree of awareness helps us understand our personal power and how our behavior affects those we lead. Administering feedback, which is negative or improvement-oriented, requires us to be able to balance our own perspective with that of the person we are leading. If we do not present the feedback in a way in which they can identify or see the problem, why or how could they attempt to change? To do a better job of giving feedback in employee development, we have to constantly examine our intentions and our impact with the feedback we offer. We also have to make sure we exhibit behaviors which enhance and build trust which are conducive to receiving the feedback, then accepting the support required to commit to change the behavior for better outcomes.

What are the things, which block feedback from being effective for the receiver? I think sometimes we are a little apprehensive about getting feedback because we attach a negative meaning to it. If we think all feedback is improvement-oriented, then we must be doing something bad and the feedback contained is suggesting we change something so we are doing different and then better. But not all feedback is back. You are receiving feedback if your neighbor tells you that your lawn or landscaping looks good. Or if your child’s teacher praises his developing social skills. Feedback can be appreciative and should be applied liberally. If some gives us plenty of appreciative feedback, then we as human beings, are much more likely to truly appreciate the improvement-oriented feedback they give to us. Perhaps, a customer lets you know how delivery could be better; your hairdresser tells you another cut would suit you better than the bangs you wanted. We get this type of feedback all the time, and we are pretty all right with it, even if it helps or it doesn’t.

How we intend and administer, receive and process feedback depends largely on how we feel about ourselves.

There is other feedback that leaves us frustrated, flat or even angry. What’s the difference? Mainly, it’s the emotional story we have attached to it or in other words, how we receive it. At best, we see this feedback as too critical and at worst, we see it as an attack on us personally. Our brains whisper to us, “is this what they really think of you?” Pushing our emotional triggers aside or pretending they don’t exist will not work.  You will have some sort of mental attachment to any feedback you receive, so pretending it is not there is disastrous. At best, we won’t get better and at worst, we will be permanently offended. Sorting out our emotional triggers and understanding them is a great step toward doing better with feedback.

If we take as our premise that the feedback we are receiving is factual and accurate, then what we are dealing with are truth triggers. All too often, we hear truth triggers and we fly off to the extreme in our reaction to it. For example, as part of your employee development, your manager might offer that you were a little quiet and aloof at the networking event. This hits a truth trigger which is you are naturally introverted and have worked to overcome this in social situations but on this particular situation, your energy level was low or you had something else distracting you. Rather than responding to the feedback with that, you respond with “what was I supposed to do, jump up on the table, tell jokes and dance?” Somehow, the feedback has hit the truth trigger and you over-reacted to the extreme, rather than dealing with the feedback in a healthy way. To do a better job in receiving feedback, we have to closely examine the triggers and the stories we tell ourselves in relation to the feedback we receive. If our intrinsic belief about ourselves is lower, it could be harder to receive and accept the feedback to make the changes necessary to move ahead productively.

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